Minnie's men in eight-try romp
The Golden Lions broke their Currie Cup duck in the most emphatic fashion, scoring a 62-23 win over the Blue Bulls at Lotus Versfeld on Saturday.
It is a result that will cause an uproar in Pretoria, because it has been many years since a Bulls team has been manhandled in such fashion at Loftus.
And after losing their first two matches, despite going close, the Lions finally showed their potential.
Despite taking a three-point (23-20) lead early in the second half, the Bulls were simply no match for the Lions - who ran riot with six second-half tries.
It was the winless, last-placed Lions who looked like championship material in an eight-try romp against he previously top-of-the-table Bulls.
It was an entertaining game in which both teams displayed their willingness to keep the ball in hand and attack from deep.
The Lions enjoyed a clear advantage in the scrums and Springbok Franco van der Merwe's experience was also invaluable to the Lions in the line-outs.
However, the big difference was the work of the visitors' loose trio - Willie Britz, captain Derick Minnie and fellow flank Jaco Kriel - who simply outplayed their Bulls counterparts.
Tony Jantjies (third minute) and Marnitz Boshoff (sixth minute) exchanged early penalties.
The Bulls produced the first try - Travis Ismaiel going over in the left corner after a patient build-up in which the Bulls varied their play cleverly. Tony Jantjies failed to add the extras - 8-3 after 13 minutes.
The Lions showed their intent when they turned two penalties in quick succession into line-outs - the second becoming a powerful maul that the Bulls could not stop and Jaco Kriel carrying the ball over for a five-pointer. Boshoff added the conversion - giving the Lions the lead for the first time, 10-8, after 17 minutes.
A poor kick downfield by Boshoff, which allowed Sampie Mastriet to start a counter, resulted in the next try. After taking it through a few very effective phases, Jurgen Visser found the space they were looking for and touched down for his team's second try. Jurgen Visser, who had taken over the kicking duties from an injured Tony Jantjies, was wide with the conversion attempt - 13-10.
On the half-hour mark Willie Britz showed his pace when he picked up a stray ball near halfway, sprinted all of 50 metres, before being tackle a metre short. However, an alert Deon Helberg picked up behind the ruck and went over for the Lions' second five-pointer. Boshoff's conversion made it 17-13 to the Lions.
Visser had a chance to close the gap five minutes from the break, with his penalty kick drifting wide, but a few minutes later the Bulls got another penalty - this time in front of the posts. This time Visser was on target, making it a one-point game - 16-17.
There was enough time for Boshoff to slot another penalty as the Lions took a four-point (20-16) lead into the break.
The Bulls got off to the perfect start after the break, Francois Venter getting the try after just three minutes - a score set up by a brilliant angled run from Clayton Blommetjies. Visser added the conversion - 23-20.
Chrysander Botha went close, being denied by the TMO, before Derick Minnie went over from a maul, the TMO again ruling against the Lions as the men from Johannesburg looked for the five-pointer that would put them back in the lead.
The try eventually came in the 51st minute, Willie Britz going over next to the uprights - but not before Bulls prop Morné Mellett was yellow carded for repeatedly collapsing the maul. Boshoff kicked the conversion - 27-23 to the visitors.
And then the Lions put on display their sublime counter attacking, Derick Minnie going over after Boshoff started the attack from deep inside his half and Anthony Volmink producing a hand-off of epic proportions. Boshoff's conversion made it 34-23.
On the hour mark Minnie scored his second and the Lions' fifth, a score that was set up by a sublime break from Elton Jantjies and good hands by Jaco Kriel. Boshoff slotted the conversion - 41-23.
When Anthony Volmink intercepted and sprinted 50 metres for the sixth try, you could see the Bulls' heads dropping.
It went from bad to worse for the home team, when former Bulls player Warwick Tecklenburg went over from a maul and Boshoff slotted the conversion as he Lions raced past the half -century - 55-23.
The next try came from a sublime chip-kick by Elton Jantjies, with Volmink collecting and then unselfishly handing back to Jantjies. Boshoff kept his 100 percent kicking record - 62-23.
All that was left for the Bulls was to play for a four-try bonus point, but the Lions held on and denied the home team even that consolation.
Man of the match: The Bulls relied a lot on their loose forwards, with Jacques du Plessis the most productive ball carrier and also did tremendous work on defence. Jürgen Visser and Clayton Blommetjies looked dangerous on the counter, but at times - from set phases - the fluency was lost in the midfield. Jaco Kriel again showed his exciting ball-in-hand skills and amazing pace, while Derick Minnie won a few crucial turnovers for his team and scored a couple of great tries. Franco van der Merwe brought the stability among the tight forwards that may have lacked in the opening weeks. You can also look Willie Britz, not just for his all-action game, but his ability to turn half-chances into points - such as when he picked up a stray ball near halfway and was only brought down a metre from the line. It resulted in Deon Helberg getting the try. His also added value to the line-outs and early in the second half scored a try of his own. You can't look too far pat flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff, who must be one of the most underrated players in the country. Our award goes to all three the Lions' loose forwards - Willie Britz, Jaco Kriel and Derick Minnie - as they produced the most decisive plays in the game.
For the Blue Bulls:
Tries: Ismaiel, Visser, Venter
Pens: T Jantjies, Visser
For the Golden Lions:
Tries: Kriel, Helberg, Britz, Minnie 2, Volmink, Tecklenburg, E Jantjies
Cons: Boshoff 8
Pens: Boshoff 2
Yellow card: Morné Mellett (Blue Bulls, 50 - repeated infringements, collapsing the maul)
Blue Bulls: 15 Jürgen Visser, 14 Sampie Mastriet, 13 Ulrich Beyers, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Travis Ismaiel, 10 Tony Jantjies, 9 Ruan Snyman, 8 Jono Ross (captain), 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Wiaan Liebenberg, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Paul Willemse, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Mbongeni Mbonambi, 1 Morné Mellett.
Replacements: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Marcel van der Merwe, 18 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 19 Jacques Engelbrecht, 20 Rudy Paige, 21 Waylon Murray, 22 Clayton Blommetjies.
Golden Lions: 15 Chrysander Botha, 14 Deon Helberg, 13 Robert De Bruyn, 12 Dylan Des Fountain, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Marnitz Boshoff, 9 Guy Cronje, 8 Willie Britz, 7 Derick Minnie (captain), 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Chris van Zyl, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Willie Wepener, 1 Jacques Van Rooyen.
Replacements: 16 Robbie Coetzee, 17 CJ van der Linde, 18 Lambert Groenewald, 19 Warwick Tecklenburg, 20 Tiaan Meyer, 21 Elton Jantjies, 22 Lionel Cronje.
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan
Assistant Referees: Jaco van Heerden, Cobus Wessels
TMO: Tappe Henning with Andy Turner in training